Curglepus used to count them, used to count his cups. When he was a little octorunt. When everything was octoeasy. He’d toy with the numbers, achieve the total and divide by eight, though one and four are longer tentacles than two and three, and five through eight. Nothing’s ever all that easy anymore, he’s been around too long, grown too big, eaten too many years of too many shrimp. Now these cups get stuck, with his ‘icles so thick he can’t turn them all the way round anymore. He’s lost count, couldn’t tell you how many cups even take up a single appendage. He’s lost interest in running the numbers.
His ink stock has clogged up, stopped working. He’s been drinking pen ink to make himself invisible again. He’s been gathering the fluid from the sunken ship, from the container that slides out from underneath its wood top. It’s getting hard to protect himself without his black cloud of armor. So he forrages his arsenal.
“But, what’s a good place for the ocupi to occupy?” This is asked at a reef meeting. “What kind of place can they be good papis and mamis?
“Where is a place where there is no place for sharks?”
“Take me to that place,” they are often saying to one another through bubbled gargles, latching their oh so many cups to a barnacle for a moment of peace. The cups are for peace, a symbol amongst them, to blend in to the reef, hold on while the hammerheads scout the scene.
The cups don’t uncup the way they once did. They get stuck. They used to pop, which sent a tingle down each tentacle. Each tingle sent a bubble up to the air place where the water ends, you could peel each ‘icle up slow and send a pattern of bubbles up to their eventual burst. It’s where it is lightest, where the air place begins. He used to count the bubbles too, that’s how he learned long division, sorting through the total number of bubbles, dividing them to sort out exactly how many each cup produced (3.457 - once). Now it takes Curgle several seconds to uncup each cup, the suction stuck, always in a panic, he feels old, he feels out of luck.
When the sharks have gone, given chase to a school of fools, they uncup from the reef. Released they jellyfish their way through the water, cyclone spinning their heads and tucking in the tentacles, like drills. “Let’s drill” they used to gurgle. “Let’s drill to the deep!” one would shout. “While, of course staying close to the reef.”
Curgle is old, he looks at the young schools of fool fish, darting in zig zag patterns by the hundred. Quickbait, he thinks, while he slinks. He’s been here a long time, counting his cups, eyeing up the competition. He’s seen the dastardly attacks. He’s outlived his family. He watches the octorunts do their spirals, the way he used to do.
Where was he? Oh, he was testing a pen which he attached to a plastic mechanism with a trigger. He uses two ‘icles to hold and pump the machines action, another two to hold the pen, another two to hold the semi-transparent florescent tube while it fills with black liquid.
He opens the book he found in the old ship and peruses its symbols. He finds the letter S, notched in the page with a convenient place for a tentacle to lift seventy percent of the papers. He must understand what the words mean on his new defense mechanism. What is SUPER SOAKER 50?